SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.
First in a series
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.
ORLANDO, Fla., (Tupperware Brands PR) — Tupperware Brands announces the issuance of a U.S. patent for PONDS (Passive Orbital Nutrient Delivery System) a unique device designed to grow vegetables in low earth orbit with minimal maintenance.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla, July 30, 2020 (CASIS PR) – On a cold winter day more than four years ago, representatives from the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory and NASA descended upon Indianapolis for a Desintation Station outreach event, hoping to convince a nontraditional partner that research and technology development onboard the ISS could improve their consumer products here on Earth.
Joining the NASA and ISS National Lab representatives at Destination Station that day was NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy—a veteran of multiple space missions, including a six-month stay on the ISS. As part of this outreach opportunity, Cassidy outlined his experiences living and working onboard the ISS and discussed how best to configure experiments for the novel environment of the orbiting laboratory.
GREENVILLE, Ind. (April 6, 2020) – Commercial space company Techshot Inc., used its space-based 3D bioprinter, called the BioFabrication Facility, or BFF, to successfully manufacture test prints of a partial human meniscus aboard the International Space Station (ISS) last month.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., April 7, 2020 (ISS National Lab PR) – SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully splashed down today off the coast of California, bringing back dozens of research investigations sponsored by the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory.
The successful splashdown and science return marks the completion of SpaceX’s 20th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission to the space station (contracted by NASA) to send critical research and supplies to the orbiting laboratory. The Dragon spacecraft spent approximately 30 days berthed to the space station before returning to Earth.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. March 6, 2020 (ISS National Lab PR) – What if the next breakthrough to improve patient care on Earth came from research off of Earth—in space? Three biotechnology startups have launched research to the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, tackling a broad range of patient care objectives—from next-generation diagnostic tools to drug discovery and improved devices for drug delivery.
LAFAYETTE, Colo., March 6, 2020 (Front Range Biosciences PR) — Front Range Biosciences® (FRB), an agricultural technology company focused on breeding and nursery production of new plant varieties and seeds for the hemp and coffee industries, today announced that its mission to transport plant cultures to space to examine the effects of zero gravity on plant gene expression is scheduled to launch this evening at the Kennedy Space Center.
In partnership with SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado Boulder, FRB’s coffee and hemp cell cultures will be delivered to the International Space Station (ISS) on the SpaceX CRS-20 cargo flight slated to depart today at 4:50 a.m. UTC, weather permitting.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — While the International Space Station was traveling more than 262 miles over the Northeast Pacific near Vancouver, British Columbia, Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA grappled Dragon at 6:25 a.m. EDT using the space station’s robotic arm Canadarm2 with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan acting as a backup.
Ground controllers will now send commands to begin the robotic installation of the spacecraft on bottom of the station’s Harmony module. NASA Television coverage of installation is now scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m. Watch online at www.nasa.gov/live.
Here’s some of the research arriving at station:
New Facility Outside the Space Station
The Bartolomeo facility, created by ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus, attaches to the exterior of the European Columbus Module. Designed to provide new scientific opportunities on the outside of the space station for commercial and institutional users, the facility offers unobstructed views both toward Earth and into space. Potential applications include Earth observation, robotics, material science and astrophysics.
Studying the Human Intestine On a Chip
Organ-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Space on Human Enteric Physiology (Gut on Chip) examines the effect of microgravity and other space-related stress factors on biotechnology company Emulate’s human innervated Intestine-Chip (hiIC). This Organ-Chip device enables the study of organ physiology and diseases in a laboratory setting. It allows for automated maintenance, including imaging, sampling, and storage on orbit and data downlink for molecular analysis on Earth.
Growing Human Heart Cells
Generation of Cardiomyocytes From Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Cardiac Progenitors Expanded in Microgravity (MVP Cell-03) examines whether microgravity increases the production of heart cells from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The investigation induces stem cells to generate heart precursor cells and cultures those cells on the space station to analyze and compare with cultures grown on Earth.
Project to help researchers understand aging on Earth, protect astronauts
BALTIMORE (Johns Hopkins University PR) — Launching no earlier than March 6 at 11:50 PM EST, the Johns Hopkins University will send heart muscle tissues, contained in a specially-designed tissue chip the size of a small cellphone, up to the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS) for one month of observation.
GREENVILLE, Ind. (March 2, 2020) – Commercial space company Techshot Inc., will send equipment and samples supporting plant, heart and cartilage research for three of its customers to the International Space Station (ISS) on SpaceX mission CRS-20. Scheduled to launch at 11:50 p.m. EST on March 6 from space launch complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the unpiloted cargo spacecraft is expected to arrive at the orbiting laboratory two days later. Techshot customers on board CRS-20 include NASA, Emory University, and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU).
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER (FL), February 27, 2020 – When the Dragon spacecraft launches on SpaceX’s 20th commercial resupply services (CRS) mission (contracted through NASA) to the International Space Station (ISS), it will do so with dozens of research experiments to be executed on the orbiting laboratory over the coming months. In particular, the ISS U.S. National Laboratory is sponsoring more than 20 separate payloads on this mission that will leverage the unique space-based environment of station to benefit life on Earth.
Launching no earlier than 11:50 p.m. ET on Friday, March 6 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, this mission carries with it a wide variety of research investigations—several funded by private companies focused on technologies critical to their commercial success and others supported by external funds focused on science questions to improve knowledge and human health.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NASA PR) — SpaceX is now targeting March 6 at 11:50 p.m. EST for launch of its 20th commercial resupply services mission (CRS-20) to the International Space Station. During standard preflight inspections, SpaceX identified a valve motor on the second stage engine behaving not as expected and determined the safest and most expedient path to launch is to utilize the next second stage in line that was already at the Cape and ready for flight.
The new second stage has already completed the same preflight inspections with all hardware behaving as expected. The updated target launch date provides the time required to complete preflight integration and final checkouts.
The cargo Dragon will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying more than 5,600 pounds of science investigations and cargo to the station, including research on particle foam manufacturing, water droplet formation, the human intestine and other cutting-edge investigations.
LAFAYETTE, Colo. (FRB PR) — Front Range Biosciences® (“FRB”), an agricultural technology company focused on breeding and nursery production of new plant varieties and seeds for the hemp and coffee industries, has announced their partnership with SpaceCells USA Inc. and BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado, Boulder to send hemp and coffee tissue culture to space. The mission will transport plant cultures to space to examine zero gravity’s effects on the plants’ metabolic pathways.
The experiment, being targeted for transportation to the space station aboard the SpaceX CRS-20 cargo flight scheduled for March 2020, will look at how plant cells undergo gene expression changes or genetic mutations while in space.